By Keith Gushard
When Marian Van Buren fell outside her Hayfield Township home in early May, splitting two vertebra in her lower back, the last thing she had on her mind was worrying about voting in the May 21 primary.
However, Van Buren, who turns 84 this fall, is a dedicated voter — casting ballots in primary and general elections for more than 60 years.
“Father always insisted we vote,” Van Buren said with a laugh. “I’ve only missed one primary (since turning 21, the then eligible age to vote) — and that was when one of my kids was born.”
Van Buren’s decades-long string of voting was in danger when she became hurt, but she was able to obtain a medical emergency absentee ballot on May 17 — the last day for emergency absentee ballot applications — and cast it before the 5 p.m. deadline thanks to some quick thinking and fast-acting friends.
Pennsylvania’s election law permits an emergency absentee ballot up until 5 p.m. on the Friday prior to an election.
“I fell on wet grass clippings,” Van Buren said of what caused her injuries. “Luckily, my 10-year-old grandson was here. He called and got the neighbors, who got me into the house; otherwise, I might have laid there.”
After Van Buren had been hospitalized, but still confined at home, it was realized on May 15 that she hadn’t filed for an absentee ballot and the deadline for non-emergency absentee ballots was May 14.
“I definitely wanted to vote, but thought I wouldn’t,” said Van Buren, who served as a Republican committeewoman in Hayfield Township for about 40 years.
“It would have broken her heart if she couldn’t have voted,” Jody Leech, chair of the Crawford County Republican Party, said.
Van Buren’s family physician, Dr. Robert Bazylak, was contacted and he signed off on a medical reason emergency absentee request around 3 p.m. May 17.
After that, Francis Weiderspahn Jr., county commissioner chairman and member of the county election board, even offered to run the absentee ballot out to Van Buren’s Hayfield Township home and return it for her.
“She started crying when we told her what was happening (by phone),” Leech said. “We would have done it for anybody.”
Weiderspahn agreed, noting the situation, while out of the ordinary, is not extraordinary.
“We did the same thing last year,” Weiderspahn said. “We had a situation where people were in the hospital in 2012 and wanted to vote.
“I had the time do it and would do it for anyone — Republican, Democrat or whatever party, whether they live in Spartansburg or Jamestown area or wherever,” Weiderspahn said. “It’s medical situation. It’s last minute. I don’t want someone to miss voting.”
Van Buren said she can’t wait to get to the voting booth in person — hopefully this November.
But in the meantime, she asked, “Who could have better friends?”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.